Are the Red Sox for real, or is their surprising early showing in the American League pennant race only a prelude to a collapse later in the season? The Red Sox were in the first division, playing some of the most exciting baseball in the league and drawing so many fans to Fenway Park that tickets actually became scarce for the first time in years.
“The Red Sox are a greatly improved team,” said Yankee Manager Ralph Houk after splitting two games in Boston. “They have several hitters who can reach that wall, their defense is good and their catching is not as bad as some people claim it is. I think the Red Sox will remain in contention for a long time. They will go as far as their pitching takes them.”
Oddly, two days after Houk’s estimate of Boston’s chances, General Manager Ed Short of the White Sox used the same words to describe the Bosox. “They have a good team which will go as far as the pitching takes them,” Short echoed.
The Red Sox had a modest record of five wins and four losses on their last home stand. The real test of the Hub club began when they headed for Washington on a stretch that has the Red Sox playing 20 of their next 23 games before the All-Star Break on the road. “This stretch of road games ought to tell us a lot,” said Manager Dick Williams in a nice bit of understatement.
The trip began well as the Bosox swept four games in Washington. The club is now playing five games over .500 in road games. Gary Bell proved an immediate lift to the Boston staff. Bell pitched a shutout against the Nats for his first Red Sox win, June 16. “Getting out of Cleveland was like getting out of prison for me,” Bell told his Red Sox teammates when he arrived in Boston, and he pitched as if he meant it.
Another addition who may give the Bosox a big boost is rookie Gary Waslewski, who was recalled from Toronto. In two starts, Waslewski pitched well but was not able to achieve a victory. Waslewski had to leave his last start with a muscle pull behind in left shoulder. It was expected that he would miss a turn, perhaps more than one. But, when the muscle is healed, Waslewski is certain to go back into regular rotation along with Bell, Lonborg and probably Lee Stange.